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Marine Corps admits misidentifying another WWII hero in iconic, flag-raising Iwo Jima photo

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. (Joe Rosenthal/Released)

Another Marine photographed in the iconic photograph of six men raising a United States flag over Iwo Jima has been misidentified, admitted Marine Corps officials Thursday.

The Marine Corps announced that Cpl. Harold “Pie” Keller was one of the men in the photograph, a development that comes 74 years after the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph was taken on Mount Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer.

Originally, the man identified on the far side of the flag pole was Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon – a miscalculation caused, in part, by his helmet only being visible in the shot.

After private historians identified by NBC News as Stephen Foley, Dustin Spence and Brent Westemeyer “asserted that there was an error in identifying the Marines depicted,” per a statement from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps formed a board with assistance from the FBI to investigate the identity of the man photographed.

“Without the initiative and contributions of both private historians devoted to preservation of our history and the FBI’s support, the Marine Corps would not have this opportunity to expand on the historical record of the second flag raising on Mount Suribachi,” wrote the Marine Corps in a statement. “We are extremely grateful for their dedication to helping us preserve our legacy.”

The correction comes more than three years after the Marine Corps announced that they had misidentified Pfc. Harold Schultz, a Purple Heart recipient who went on to work for the U.S. Postal Service after being injured on Iwo Jima.

Like Schultz, Keller was private about his time in World War II.

“We knew he fought in the war, we knew he was wounded in the shoulder at one point,” Keller’s daughter, Kay Maurer, told NBC News. “But he didn’t tell us he helped raise the flag on Mount Suribachi.”

Regardless of who was memorialized in Rosenthal’s photograph, the Marine Corps said in a statement that “each and every Marine who set foot on Iwo Jima, or supported the effort from the sea and air around the island is, and always will be, a part of our Corps’ cherished history.”

Keller, a Purple Heart awardee, died in 1979 at 57. According to his obituary, he was a former fire chief and for three decades was a member of the fire department in his hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.

He is buried in Brooklyn Memorial Cemetery.


© 2019 USA Today